Kevin Harvick climbed four spots in the Sprint Cup standings after his runner-up finish Saturday at Kansas.

Harvick still in title picture, but faces tall task on Sunday

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Kevin Harvick is still mathematically in contention for the Sprint Cup championship. But facing a 40-point gap to championship leader Jimmie Johnson with just two races left, he admitted Friday at Phoenix International Raceway that hoping for problems for both Johnson and Matt Kenseth (second, -7 points) “is asking for all but a miracle.”

Nonetheless, despite the circumstances, Harvick also said that he couldn’t fret over his Chase – or his season altogether.

“We knew we needed to win at least one race in the Chase, and we accomplished that. It just happens to be a year where you needed to win a couple or three races in the Chase and finish in the Top-5 a lot,” he said before qualifying ninth for Sunday’s Advocare 500 at PIR.

“It’s not been anything to complain about. We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and try to win one of these or both of the last two races.”

With three previous wins at PIR and a relatively solid pace through practice this weekend, Harvick could be a threat in tomorrow’s 312-lap event. But if Johnson and Kenseth put in good days as well, it won’t really matter in regards to the championship.

There’s no doubt Harvick will keep fighting until he’s officially done. But during his Friday presser at PIR, he was asked who had the edge between Johnson and Kenseth if he had to take himself out of the title picture.

His reply referenced the unpredictability of the duel between the two men, noting Kenseth finishing second at Martinsville (a place where Johnson has won eight times) and Johnson scoring his first win of the year on a 1.5-mile oval last weekend at Texas.

“It’s a crapshoot at this point…It’s just a matter of who hits it on a particular weekend,” he said. “Obviously, this race track can play a lot of havoc on track position and things happening and [you] get caught up in something, but I think performance-wise, it’s a draw at this point.”

Status targets 2016 GP2 title after GP3 exit

2015 GP2 Series Round 8.
Autodromo di Monza, Italy.
Sunday 6 September 2015.
Marlon Stockinger (PHL, Status Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C2088
© GP2 Series
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Status Grand Prix has set its sights on winning the 2016 GP2 Series championship following its decision to close down its GP3 team at the end of the current season.

Earlier this week, GP3 issued a statement confirming its team roster for the next three seasons that featured new entries from DAMS and Virtuosi Racing.

However, both Carlin and Status did not appear on the list, signalling that both had opted to leave GP3 at the end of 2015.

Status first entered GP3 back in 2010, but only set up a GP2 team in 2015 after taking over the old Caterham Racing operation.

This will now become the main focus for the Irish outfit, though, as explained by team boss Teddy Yip Jr. earlier this week.

“Status Grand Prix has not renewed entry into the GP3 Series from 2016 onwards in order to maximize focus on our GP2 campaign,” Yip said.

“Having finished second in the team championship in the inaugural GP3 Series, we have enjoyed six successful years in the category collecting nine race wins, 26 podium finishes and vying for numerous team and driver titles.

“We are very proud to have given opportunities and achieved success with drivers such as Robert Wickens, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and our current GP2 race winner, Richie Stanaway.

“We now look forward to finishing the 2015 GP2 and GP3 seasons on a high before mounting a robust GP2 title campaign in 2016.”

Both GP2 and GP3 return from a one-month break next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.

Hakkinen: Verstappen is already “a real pro”

during a media interview at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards on April 15, 2015 in Shanghai, China.
© Getty Images
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Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen has heaped praise upon Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen, supporting his decision to ignore team orders during last month’s Singapore Grand Prix.

Verstappen only turned 18 on Wednesday, but has already made a big impression on the F1 world during his first 14 races with his aggressive driving style and mature approach to racing.

In Singapore, Verstappen was told by Toro Rosso to let faster teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. go past, but refused to give up his position and eventually beat the Spaniard to finish eighth.

Writing in his Hermes blog, Hakkinen backed Verstappen’s decision to stay ahead and praised the Dutchman for his performances so far this season.

“A driver must be alert and keep track of what is happening around him at all times,” Hakkinen wrote. “That’s what Verstappen is. He does not simply let anyone pass if it’s not for the world championship, but only a few championship points.

“Verstappen is 18 years old, but the guy’s already a real pro. Young people are developing incredibly fast nowadays, and by that I don’t mean just drivers.”

Despite having more than half a season of F1 racing under his belt, Verstappen only gained his road driver’s license on his 18th birthday, having previously been under the age limit to drive a regular car in public.